With Slade Wilson revealing himself in the Queen Mansion, it is only natural to juxtapose a plot with inherent tension with one that is all about the emotional release of battle, the siege of the Amazo. Executive producer Marc Guggenheim described “The Promise” as “designed … to be like a sequel to episode 14(“The Odyssey”) last year, where we flipped the paradigm and spent the majority of our story time on the island with Oliver and Slade.” Like Community and its duology of paint ball themed episodes, Arrow makes an adequate follow up.
Arrow season 2 has done lots and lots of aggressive expansion in terms of the inhabitants of Arrow, suddenly we have the League of Assassins, Task Force X, powers, and a Canary. The series hasn’t however expanded on its secret weapon: action sequences. Now, there is an extremely logical reason for this, bigger set pieces cost more money. Adding more bodies would change how you actually block out and choreograph sequences and Arrow has an excellent stunt coordinators like James Bamford, who maximizes the fact that most of this shows fights take place in warehouse (and there equivalents) already. There would be something off if Arrow were suddenly able to do consistent large set pieces, this show is a scrappy ramshackle piece. Smaller, more personal sequences fit it better on a working theme level.
This isn’t to complain or write off the siege of the Amazon but to contextualize what makes this episode feel rather special. We are given several sequences on the deck of the Amazo and it is filled pirates, Russians, explosions, and red barrels that weren’t exploding(thanks videogames). The camera gets a little shaky, literally and metaphorically, in these moments. The shakes aren’t bad with most of the shots being of the long variety, if you’re going big you might as well ensure the scale cannot be missed. A long distance implies a lack of caring or emotion “The Promise” overcomes this through sheer energy. Slade Wilson is an excellent mustache twirling villain in the present. Five years in the past as he is about to paraglide onto the Amazon he couldn’t help but laugh and smile.
The siege of Amazon goes in close for some nice hand to hand moments. Oliver’s training routine pays off as he manages to take out several guards effectively but without the efficiency of his more hardened self. Slade Wilson is made out to be a terminating killing machine, slicing though the pirates constantly in a flicker of light. His bisected mask made to look even the more fearsome and camp. Both Ollie and Slade down their requisite attire for the mission, echoes of what they are to become. Much of comic mythology is derived from that idea of dress up and clothes making the man, making it an obvious place for Oliver to finally don the mask and act like the hero he wants to be even If he doesn’t know it yet.
All of this action, no matter how well done, would have been meaningless and hollow if it lacked a good emotional foundation. “The Promise” gets at this foundation in two ways. Structurally shifting the island flashbacks to ‘A’ plot position gives more time to set up the eventual siege. This means Sara Lance talking in themes and spelling things out, which sounds a bit worst than it was. It’s also par for the course of Sara’s character on the island. Awkward as that was, episode scribes Jake Coburn & Ben Sokolowski do the leg work. Adding a bit of narrative but artistically pleasing funkiness, the flashbacks even pertain to the dreams of Oliver Queen. Dreaming of Shado in a field (out of MGS 3) wondering why he killed her, a guilty conscious made manifest. Oliver jumps asleep as the Shado of his dreams stabs him viciously, with a couple of single digit frames of Slade doing the same.
After going on break for the Winter Olympics, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returns with “T.A.H.I.T.I.” and a new slating of marketing that at least visually ties the series into the forthcoming Captain America: The Winter Solider. Other than the visual addition of Cap’s tarnished shield, the main edition is a new tagline, Uprising; adding further convulsion to an already convoluted title. “T.A.H.I.T.I.” also marks the arrival of Agent John Garret, first introduced in the 80’s Elektra run, played by Bill Paxton.
With the break and strong last episode, “Tracks”, SHIELD felt like it had some real momentum going into it. I was actually rather jazzed at watching this episode. “T.A.H.I.T.I.” doesn’t totally squander this momentum; just some of the core issues with this series remain and undercut it.
After a rather forced opening couple of acts on the Bus, our Agents along with Garret and Triplett figure out where it is they really should be taking Skye, the mysterious Guest House. An off the books non-SHIELD affiliated (or Hydra, AIM, or any other Marvel Super Group of Evil if you were wondering) facility. The Guest House provided a nice bottle to put the rest of the episode in. One of the consistent problems has been manufacturing convincing locations, with the Guest House expectations are understandably low and they are met rather well. We are shown bigish dark corridors, some hallways, doors with that normal military font, all the makings of your typical non-descript base. There is a lot of mileage made In such a limited set.
Bill Paxton’s John Garret is a much appreciated, if brief, addition to the show. Simply put, he is cool. A bit gruff and older, but there’s a personality to him. Paxton’s energy made Brett Daltons more limited range seem bigger with him around. Not much is really told to us about Garret beyond him being Ward’s old S.O. and knowing Coulson back in the day. Paxton’s performance however gives the character a bit of an edge, he wants to takedown or kill Ian Quinn just as much if not more so than Coulson. The way he leaps over a table, combat rolls, and shoots one of the guards in the stomach and then quips about “no hard feelings Bill” is old school badassery. By the end of the episode, he had more personality than most of the cast.
My Aunt sent me this feature on True Detective season 1 director Cary Fukunaga and implored me to watch some Hallmark Channel to counter some of that darkness. In reply, I said that may be a possibility with Hannibal returning for that wombo combo of cosmic horror (Detective) and baroque horror (Hannibal). In its season premier, “Kaiseki”, Hannibal reasserts itself as one of it not the best looking show on television and signals a shift in the overall structure of the series.
I suppose we may as well start at the beginning of the episode with that fight scene. Normally these types of in media res openings wouldn’t be my thing, serving nothing more than to have a quick jolt of action to catch people’s attention. With Hannibal being based on a series of novels by Thomas Harris, it act more as a promise and further plays the well read fans(of which I am not one) idea of cannon. We know the basic structure of this series from the books and showrunner Bryan Fuller has openly talked about how season 5 will be Red Dragon. As the season finale taught us however, Fuller and his crew will be taking a windy path. And so Lecter and Crawford’s throw down in the kitchen becomes a promise of further disruption, Crawford and the rest must realize by the end of this season that Hannibal Lecter was the Fox in the hen house.
The sequence itself was beautifully rendered. Their opening stare down is excessively stylish. Each characters reflection shown on one of Hannibal’s immaculate knives, which soon finds itself stuck in Crawford’s hand. The choreography is thudding and heavy as they throw one another around the once pristine kitchen.
Hannibal appears to rightly be moving away from a case of the week as ‘A’ plot format. In “Kaiseki” its more the ‘C’ plot. Something for Lecter to tell his own psychiatrist, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier(Gillian Anderson), “I got to be Will Graham today.” This show is rather inventive in how bodies are discovered so having them pop up below a beaver damn is on the lower end of weird. There is nothing normal with what the serial killer is doing to his victims: pumping them full of heroin, filling them with silicon, and covering them in a resign so that they do not decompose. The ones in the river were his discards. The ones he kept are all meticulously laid out in a silo – the camera vertically pulls out after starting on a extreme close up of the news (still living) victims eye, revealing the whole piece to appear to be one giant human eye. The victim is just a small piece of one giant human color wheel.
More often than not Hannibal’s cases were never the most interesting part of the show, it has an always will be the interactions between Graham and Lecter. The cases often provided a chance to push the limits of what’s possible to broadcast on Network TV and little else (with a few exceptions of course). Pushing these to the background builds a certain level of mystery about the investigation. Hannibal almost congratulates himself for getting to see the world as Will dose when he tells Du Maurier.
Their scene together is the tensest in the episode. There have only been hints at how much Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier knows or thinks she knows about Hannibal Lecter. The good doctor gives his psychiatrist informed consent to talk about their meetings with the FBI, “You maintain an air of transparency while putting me in the position to lie for you. Again,” she notes. It is clear that she is afraid of what he may be capable of, Madds Mikkelsen for his part stays subdued and menacing. Neither actor overplays anything in this scene; it was all about the subtle word choice and slight changes in tone. Transforming this scene into one of master and captor in which neither wants to admit their role.
Special note should be given to music supervisor Brian Reitzell who has a constant slowly pulled note going underneath Hannibal and Du Maurier’s scene, providing enough audio ques for everyone to tense up. The same goes for the music in the fight scene at the beginning of this episode.
Placing Will Graham in prison (well hospital for the criminally insane) is ironic beyond the obvious. Visually this is reflected in showing Graham in various cages, the bars always horizontally cutting the frame, keeping him away from the “sane” people. He is not insane, at least not any more. Now he has clarity and its voice is Hannibal Lecter, telling him to do things he never heard him say before. Despite
his caged reality, Will is often shown inside his own head, visualized as a river with him fly fishing, searching for the memories that will free him. The ever present Wendigo-Hannibal lurks in the background.
With Alan Bloom’s help, Will tries to unlock these lost memories, revealing a bountiful feast of dead creatures and only an ear for him. For all of Hannibal’s baroque imagery there I something more unsettling with the “reality” of the situation when Will dose remember how that ear made it in his stomach. Hannibal put it there (of course) with a tub shoved down his throat. Stripped of symbolic innuendo, all we have is the unsettling sight of Will Graham gagging on a tube as Hannibal surgically pushes the ear into his friend’s stomach.
Hannibal is not for everyone, it aggressively goes for visuals and symbolic interpretation over traditional plot movement (even though it mostly achieves traditionally the same goals). This is sick and twisted but not because of all the darkly beautiful imagery, it’s the character pulling the strings. Hannibal Lecter is more than a supervillian, he’s evil incarnate by this point. All of this horrific imagery means nothing if there isn’t a dark heart to imbue it with emotion.
The Bits At The End
- We can all agree that Winston is the BEST right?
- So glad this show is back even if it makes me feel terrible. No other show is really like it, providing a interesting challange in disscussing it.